These are all of the human services bills proposed in the 2019 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Major, Medium, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

House

Click on the House bill title to jump to its section:

MAJOR

HB19-1089: Exemption from Garnishment for Medical Debt KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB19-1096: Colorado Right to Rest KILLED BY BILL SPONSOR
HB19-1204: Prohibit Camping Environmentally Sensitive Areas KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

MEDIUM

HB19-1133: Colorado Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB19-1141: Preserve Senior and Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption
HB19-1142: Safe Family Option for Parents PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB19-1215: Child Support Commission Recommendations PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED

MINOR

HB19-1013: Child Care Expenses Tax Credit Low-Income Families PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB19-1023: Foster Children and Driver Licenses PASSED HOUSE AMENDED
HB19-1043: Life Care Institutions Post Surety Bond as Reserve PASSED
HB19-1051: Colorado Department of Public Safety Human Trafficking-Related Training PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE
HB19-1054: Disability Trust Requirements
HB19-1063: At-Risk Information Sharing Between County Departments PASSED
HB19-1069: Sign Language Interpreters Title Certification PASSED HOUSE AND A SENATE COMMITTEE
HB19-1085: Grants for Property Tax Rent and Heat PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDED
HB19-1126: Veteran and Military Green Alert Program KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS
HB19-1197: Protect Social Workers' Personal Information on Internet PASSED HOUSE AMENDED
HB19-1223: Social Security Disability Application Assistance PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

TECHNICAL

HB19-1219: Child Welfare Permanency Planning
HB19-1232: Aligning Indian Child Welfare Act Requirements

HB19-1013 Child Care Expenses Tax Credit Low-Income Families (Pettersen) [Exum]

AMENDED: Technical

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Permanently extends the child care tax credit for low income families that is set to expire in 2022 or if surplus funds run short.

Permanently extends the child care tax credit for low income families that is set to expire in 2022 or if surplus funds run short. The tax credit is available for individuals with a federally adjusted gross income of $25,000 or less and is for 25% of child care expenses for a dependent under 13, up to $500 max for one dependent and $1000 for two or more.

Arguments For:

Child care is one of the biggest problems facing any working family, and the cost can be extremely difficult to bear for low income families. Tax credits here are one the best investments the state can make in both giving working families the ability to actually work and children a safe place for care. Removing the sunset on this credit is appropriate for something so important and if the legislature decides at a later date it no longer wants the credit it can simply remove it with a legislative act.

Arguments Against:

This tax credit was designed to be a bonus of sorts, if the state had excess revenue then it would continue to operate. Removing that distinction and making it permanent could add extra stress to state revenues when we inevitably hit another low economic period. The concept of sunsetting tax credits is also a longstanding Colorado tradition that allows us to force re-examination of these credits every few years to make sure we really want to keep them.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1013

HB19-1023 Foster Children and Driver Licenses (Marble, Todd) [Saine, Jackson]

From the Transportation Legislation Review Committee

AMENDED: Significant

PASSED HOUSE

Short Description:

Makes multiple changes to make it easier for foster children to obtain driver’s licenses and instruction permits when the child has legally obtained financial responsibility for themselves and obtain insurance (by pooling with state fleet).

Long Description:

Exempts foster children from having foster parent or legal guardian sign affidavit of liability when getting a driver’s license, allows a foster child under 16 to be instructed by anyone who is at least 21 and has a driver’s license, and allows anyone who is 21 and provided instruction to sign driving logs for instruction requirements for foster children who have financial responsibility in his or her own name. Also lowers age required to obtain an instruction permit without an affidavit of liability from 17 ½ to 17. Creates a program that pools insurance of a child who has been in a foster home for at least one year with the state’s fleet. The program will not start until full funding has been achieved from gifts, grants, or donations.

Arguments For:

This removes some common obstacles for foster children in obtaining a license and insurance. All of the exemptions are common-sense and keep the spirit of our licensing system intact. Insurance is of course required to drive and can be much harder for a teenager to obtain and pay for on their own.

Arguments Against:

The state’s nonpartisan legislative council says that the state cannot pool insurance of a foster child together with the state to reduce rates. So while the bill will help these kids get insurance, it isn’t going to cost any less. The only way to do that would be for the state to pay for some of the costs. The legislative council estimates annual appropriations of $1.4 million dollars and a two and a half full-time employees to administer the program. This is too much for a few hundred kids to get insurance.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1023

HB19-1043 Life Care Institutions Post Surety Bond as Reserve [Galindo]

PASSED

Short Description:

Allows life care institutions to use surety bonds as an allowable reserve, adding to the existing options which all currently require liquidity.

Long Description:

Allows life care institutions to use surety bonds as an allowable reserve, adding to the existing options which all currently require liquidity. Surety bonds are a legally binding contract among three parties: the principal (business required to have the financial guarantee), the oblige (agency requiring the financial guarantee) and the surety (the agency issuing the bond and thus providing the financial guarantee.

Arguments For:

Life care institutions can promise care until death if a resident pays a hefty initial entrance fee and ongoing monthly fees, which is why the state requires reserves to protect families against the institution miscalculating and going bankrupt. But the current situation that requires actual liquidity is burdensome to facilities that must always have that money set aside. A surety bond, and there are special ones issues specifically for assisted living facilities, provides the same peace of mind and financial guarantee without financially burdening the facility.

Arguments Against:

We require actual cash because actual cash is what runs these facilities. While the bond does promise a financial guarantee, now we have another organization involved that has to stay financially viable for the guarantee to be real. If the bond facility runs into problems, what then?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1043

HB19-1051 Colorado Department of Public Safety Human Trafficking-Related Training (Gardner, Ginal) [Carver, McLachlan]

*This bill has been amended in a technical manner*

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Requires division of criminal justice to provide human trafficking training to law enforcement agencies and entities that provide services to human trafficking victims.

Long Description:

Requires division of criminal justice to provide human trafficking training to law enforcement agencies and entities that provide services to human trafficking victims. This can include: train-the-trainer programs, direct trainings, and online training programs. The bill directly names law enforcement agencies, organizations that provide direct services to victims of human trafficking, and school personnel and parents or guardians of students, but training is open to any other organization, agency, or group that would benefit. When considering requests for training the division should give priority to areas that have limited access to training resources. There is no direct funding provided for the program but the division is authorized to accept money, gifts, grants, donations, services, and in-kind donations.

Arguments For:

Human trafficking is a matter of statewide concern and although training resources are available on the front range, many areas of the state have limited training resources that are easily available or accessible. The Colorado Human Trafficking Counsel has developed a curriculum for law enforcement and is charged with doing the same for entities that provide services to human trafficking survivors. It makes sense to link these programs up with the areas of the state that needs them.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1051

HB19-1054 Disability Trust Requirements (Bridges)

Short Description:

Changes the validity of disability trusts so that trusts can reimburse Medicaid for any amount remaining in the trust up to the total amount of medical assistance paid on behalf of the beneficiary only after the death of the beneficiary. Previously valid trusts also had to reimburse the state if the trust was terminated in the beneficiary’s lifetime. Also requires valid trusts to comply with Social Security requirements.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

The purpose of these trusts is to use a person’s own assets for their disability care but maintain eligibility for Medicaid and Social Security. If a person’s circumstances change while they are alive and they no longer need their care, they are still going to need their assets to live. Pulling the reimbursement money out at this point could mean financial ruin. Instead the state should wait until the person is deceased.

Arguments Against:

This creates a bit of an end-run around the promise of these trusts, that the money paid out in medical treatment will get reimbursed by the individual’s assets to the extent possible. These individuals create the trusts to use public money for their treatment. If they no longer need treatment, great, but you are not supposed to then spend all of the money in the trust on something else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1054

HB19-1063 At-Risk Information Sharing Between County Departments (Gardner, Lee) [Kraft-Tharp, Larson]

PASSED

Short Description:

Allows for greater information access for adult protective services (APS) to child protective services (CPS) records and child protective services to adult protective services records when the information is needed to assess the safety, risk or provision of services for an at-risk adult or child, respectively. Also prohibits substantiated perpetrator from receiving identifying information about the person who made report of mistreatment or self-neglect of at risk-adult. Allows person named as at-risk adult to access report without court order with identifying information about person who made report removed.

Long Description:

Allows for greater information access for adult protective services to child protective services records and child protective services to adult protective services records when the information is needed to assess the safety, risk or provision of services for an at-risk adult or child, respectively. In both cases the information is restricted to information regarding prior or current referrals, assessments, investigations, or related case information involving an at-risk adult and an alleged perpetrator. Also prohibits substantiated perpetrator from receiving identifying information about the person who made report of mistreatment or self-neglect of at risk-adult. Allows person named as at-risk adult to access report without court order with identifying information about person who made report removed.


Arguments For:

It makes sense that CPS might need access to this information regarding at-risk adult abuse to better understand a child’s situation and APS might need access to information regarding child abuse to better understand an at-risk adult’s situation. Right now, they are siloed off. It is also important to keep perpetrators from getting information about people making reports for obvious reasons and people who are the subject of a report have the right to access it.

Arguments Against:

Identifying information is always a tricky thing because the situation itself can be identifying, so the person named as the at-risk adult may be able to figure out who made the report just by what the report describes.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1063

HB19-1069 Sign Language Interpreters Title Certification (Danielson) [Jackson]

PASSED HOUSE AND A SENATE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Adds “translator” and “certified translator” for sign language to the list of titles that require certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. to use.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

It is critical for those relying on sign language to communicate that the person doing the signing knows what they are doing. People advertising themselves as translators and certified translators should have an official seal of approval.

Arguments Against:

Someone should be able to advertise themselves as a translator without an official certification from this specific organization. If someone is acquiring the services of a translator, it is on them to make sure they have someone who can do the job.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1069

HB19-1085 Grants for Property Tax Rent and Heat [Exum]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Currently low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities are eligible for state assistance grants for property taxes or rent paid and heating expenses. The rent assistance only applies for landlords that pay property tax, this bill removes that requirement except that rents due to public housing authorities are excluded. It also raises the assistance amounts to adjust for inflation since 2014 (last time they were touched) and makes an inflation adjustment permanent.

Long Description:

Currently low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities are eligible for state assistance grants for property taxes or rent paid and heating expenses. The rent assistance only applies for landlords that pay property tax, this bill removes that requirement. It also raises the assistance amounts to adjust for inflation since 2014 (last time they were touched) and makes an inflation adjustment permanent. Maximum property tax and rent grant is increased from $700 to $850, minimum increased from $227 to $275; maximum heat grant is increased from $192 to $250, minimum increased from $73 to $100. Maximum eligible income to claim a rebate is increased from $14,469 to $17,500 for individuals, from $19,541 to $23,500 for spouses. The phase-out amounts, where a person’s maximum grant amount begins to decrease, are increased from $7,780 to $9,500 for individuals and $12,576 to $15,500 for spouses.


Arguments For:

The idea here is to help people who are less likely to able to work to stay in a home and stay warm in the winter. The notion that we should care if the landlord is required to pay property tax doesn’t square with this mission and this bill rightly removes it. It is also important to keep up with inflation and rather than constantly have to be adjusting everything, this bill sets it all to the inflation index after making an adjustment to account for the fact that these rates have not been adjusted in five years. Note that the eligible income amounts have also been adjusted up, so it’s fair.

Arguments Against:

Rent in this program is considered a property tax substitute, as obviously if you are renting you don’t own the property and don’t owe property tax. The idea is to help with the money that must be paid to the state for owning the property, so it makes sense that if there is no money owed to the state, then there is no need for assistance in paying something that doesn’t exist.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1085

HB19-1089 Exemption from Garnishment for Medical Debt [Tipper, A. Valdez]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Exempts a person’s earnings from garnishment if the person’s family income does not exceed 400% of the federal poverty line and the judgment against the individual is for medical debt.

Long Description:

Exempts a person’s earnings from garnishment if the person’s family income does not exceed 400% of the federal poverty line and the judgment against the individual is for medical debt. Also required the court notice to the debtor include this information and the debtor’s right to object to the garnishment based on this criteria.


Arguments For:

Despite gains from increased coverage, almost 750,000 Coloradans reported struggling to pay medical bills in 2017 and 45,000 declared bankruptcy due to medical debt. Of that 750,000, 37.2% or 279,000 reported being unable to pay for necessities like food, heat, or rent. We have not solved this problem and until we do, we cannot send families into bankruptcy spirals due to medical debt, which is usually beyond the control of any family.

Arguments Against:

While it is always sad when someone falls into such steep debt that they cannot pay the money they owe, the fact is that the money is owed and the creditor has to be able to get it back. Excluded medical debt will not just vanish into thin air, it will come out of the pocket of everyone who is paying their medical bills in the form of increased cost.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1089

HB19-1096 Colorado Right to Rest [Melton]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSOR

Short Description:

Creates the Colorado Right to Rest Act, which establishes basic rights for the homeless including right to use and move freely in public spaces, to rest in public spaces, to eat and accept food in public spaces where food is not prohibited, to occupy a legally parked vehicle, and to have a reasonable expectation of privacy for their property. Exempts local governments from this requirement if the government can demonstrate that the waiting list for all local public housing is less than 50 people for three straight months. Allows the general assembly to give up to $10 million over three years to help local governments who have a waiting list of over 50 to reduce their list by building capacity.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

Pushing the homeless into courts and jails is costly, inhumane and ineffective. This is about an individual’s basic right to exist, and as such the state must take primacy to ensure those rights are not being trampled. Cities throughout Colorado are enacting laws that essentially criminalize homelessness itself, such as sleeping in parked car or using a tent or sleeping bag to protect themselves from the elements. These laws don’t prevent homelessness (you think people want to be homeless?), they just push people into the prison system and decrease any chance they have to escape their situation. These laws are also frequently selectively enforced, which leads to bias based on appearance. The bill specifically states that those who rest or sleep must not obstruct the use of or access to private property. It also excludes areas where there are available resources for the homeless to get off the streets.

Arguments Against:

Cities should have the right to decide for themselves what to do with those who have nowhere to live. If they decide that they don’t want beggars bothering people in the parks or taking up parking spaces then that is the right of the city. Businesses may be turned off by large visible homeless populations and hurt the economic well-being of the city’s inhabitants. If a city’s citizens feel differently, then they can change their representatives or laws.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1096

HB19-1126 Veteran and Military Green Alert Program [Sandridge]

KILLED BY SPONSORS

Short Description:

Creates a Green Alert system, similar to other color alerts we have, for a missing veteran or active duty service member who is known to have a physical or mental health condition that is related to their service or is a potential threat to harm themselves.

Long Description:

Creates a Green Alert system, similar to other color alerts we have, for a missing veteran or active duty service member who is known to have a physical or mental health condition that is related to their service or is a potential threat to harm themselves. The bill directs local law enforcement agencies to require the person reporting the veteran/service member as missing to provide either documentation of their physical or mental health condition or clear, identifiable proof that the missing individual is at imminent risk of self-harm. The bill requires the department of public safety to create rules for local law enforcement and the state bureau of investigation to follow to verify that a missing individual meets the criteria for the alert and getting the alert to media outlets.


Arguments For:

Our veterans and active duty personnel too often bear the scars of their service to our country and sadly sometimes can succumb to them. The color alert system has proven to be an outstanding tool for locating missing children and the elderly and should be extended to our veterans and active duty military. It could save lives.

Arguments Against:

There are too many hoops to jump through for this to work. The other color alerts work because they are simple: someone is missing and here is the information we have. In the case this bill creates, we would have to do some sort of (undefined) verification of either actual documentation or someone’s story about why an individual is a danger to themselves. Perhaps a better approach would be to not worry if people are going to abuse the alert system and simply offer an alert for missing veterans or active duty personnel, regardless of their health history.

The idea behind this program is good, but we should watch a similar project going on in Wisconsin to see how it works before implementing it Colorado.

Someone who wants to commit suicide is completely different from the other color alerts. They know what they are doing and can be dangerous. The last thing we need to do is to make a state-wide alert for the individual which could turn deadly for those trying to help the suicidal individual.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1126

HB19-1133 Colorado Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Network (Fields) [Caraveo]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Creates the Colorado Child Abuse Response and Evaluation network (CARENetwork) to improve the provision of services to children who are subject to physical or sexual abuse or neglect. The state must chose a nationally recognized organization with board-certified specialists to act as a resource center for the state to increase local capacity around the state for health assessments, encourage and educate medical providers, and establish an efficient and streamlined process to ensure a coordinated response to suspected abuse or neglect around the state.

Long Description

Creates the Colorado Child Abuse Response and Evaluation network (CARENetwork) to improve the provision of services to children who are subject to physical or sexual abuse or neglect. The cut-offs for the CARENetwork are under 6 for all cases and under 13 for sexual abuse. The state must chose a nationally recognized organization with board-certified specialists in the field of child abuse pediatrics and with expertise to establish standards for the CARENetwork and provide education and training. The organization will work to increase local capacity around the state for medical and behavioral health assessments by building appropriate infrastructure and providing technical assistance. It will also develop best practices for medical and behavioral health exams, establish an efficient and streamlined process to ensure a coordinated response to suspected abuse or neglect around the state, including hand-offs to available resources. It will also encourage and educate medical providers and collect and analyze data and monitor outcomes statewide. The CARENetwork advisory committee will consist of nine members serving for three-year terms.


Arguments For:

There are over 100,000 suspected child abuse and neglect referrals in Colorado each year, with 1/3 of those screened for an assessment. But there are only six board-certified specialists in the field of child abuse in the entire state, and five of them are in Denver. This creates a serious problem statewide for getting accurate assessments when there is suspected abuse and requires a statewide effort to increase capacity and utilize all of our resources efficiently. That is what this bill does by leveraging expertise statewide and creating a central unit responsible for these cases and only these cases. This unit can use its expertise to create more and more providers around the state capable of handling these assessments.

Arguments Against:

This bill is an unfunded mandate, it will require an ongoing contract with the non-profit organization that is going to have to put some serious resources behind the program if it is going to be successful. Because the program is not given any funds, the money will have to come out of the department of public health and environment, where it is housed. This means it will have to fight with other programs in the department for money, or the department will have to fight with other departments to get an increased budget.

You cannot force expertise like this, we need providers who can do these assessments but this bill doesn’t incentivize working in this field or being board-certified. It instead creates a big bureaucracy that has vague marching orders to go out and make things happen. Big government isn’t the answer, a non-profit agency with undoubtedly good intentions but no magical ability to create the providers we need is not the answer.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1133

HB19-1141 Preserve Senior and Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemption [Beckman]

Short Description:

Allows seniors to receive the 10-year owner-occupier of a primary residence standard (required to be eligible for the 50% property tax exemption) if they would have qualified for the 10 years but for a medically forced move from a previous residence. The bill also prevents the state legislature from lowering the maximum amount of property tax exemption, which also affects disabled veterans, below $200,000 unless general fund revenue is less than revenue in the preceding year. If these conditions occur and the tax is lowered below $200,000, it automatically goes back when revenues start growing again.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

Needing to leave a home because of a medical necessity is a sad reality for some seniors. We should not penalize them for this, if they would have qualified for the 50% property tax exemption otherwise then they deserve the exemption. In 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011 the state legislature zeroed out this exemption entirely, which is money that qualified seniors and disabled veterans are counting on, particularly if their property values are increasing (which is the entire point of this program in the first place: help keep these folks in their homes as their property taxes grow). We need to make sure that such a move is a real fiscal necessity, which this bill does while preserving the ability of the legislature to act in a true fiscal crisis (not the case in 2003-2005).

Arguments Against:

If the point of this program is to keep seniors in their homes when property taxes rise above what they were when the senior bought the place, then a more recently purchased residence doesn’t apply. The point isn’t to give seniors money just because, it is that if you live in your home for a long time, the value of the property will rise, and so will the taxes, potentially to the point where you can’t afford the taxes anymore. Not being able to afford it is something that cannot happen when you purchase the residence, or even a few years afterwards. The current setup makes sense and there is no need to include those who had to move, for whatever reason.

The state legislature shouldn’t be able to zero out this exemption at all, for whatever reason. This bill doesn’t go far enough to protect money seniors and disabled veterans who live on fixed incomes are counting on. In times of economic contraction, let the state find the money somewhere else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1141

HB19-1142 Safe Family Option for Parents [Ransom, Singer]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Short Description:

Creates a voluntary option for parents with custody rights to enter into an agreement for another individual to temporarily care for their child(ren). The agreement does not alter parental rights at all and is not considered abandonment. Unless the parents are deployed activity duty military members, it cannot last for more than six months. Qualified nonprofits are allowed to create an implement the agreements and must do fingerprint-based background checks on every adult in the proposed temporary care household as well as child abuse and neglect report checks.

Long Description:

Creates a voluntary option for parents with custody rights to enter into an agreement for another individual to temporarily care for their child(ren). The agreement does not alter parental rights at all and is not considered abandonment. Unless the parents are deployed activity duty military members, it cannot last for more than six months without providing power of attorney, which can extend it up to a year. Qualified nonprofits are allowed to create an implement the agreements and must do fingerprint-based background checks on every adult in the proposed temporary care household as well as child abuse and neglect report checks. The agreement allows the temporary custodian to enroll the child in school, obtain educational and behavioral information from school, consent to all school related matters, medical treatment, or any other thing requiring consent of a guardian except for marriage or adoption.


Arguments For:

This provides a safe, voluntary option for parents in crisis who do not present a danger to their children by creating a network of volunteer families who have been screened and trained. The nonprofit provides a necessary check on the system as all of these agreements must run through them. These agreements can also be revoked at any time by the parents.

Arguments Against:

At what point are we going to step in and say that the crisis is enough for parental rights to become an issue? The bill is silent about what to do with parents who string together six month vacations from their responsibility with brief gaps of actual parenting. Presumably it counts on the nonprofit agencies to not allow it or the state department of human services to regulate against (they are given rule writing authority, but it is limited) but there’s a lot of gray area here. The bill also is silent about joint custody agreements, what happens if one parent tries to use this program against the wishes of the other?

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1142

HB19-1197 Protect Social Workers' Personal Information on Internet (Lee, Gardner) [Carver, Singer]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED HOUSE

Goal: To protect the personal information of state and county employees working on child abuse or neglect cases.

Description:

Makes it a class I misdemeanor to knowingly make the personal information of a state or county employee working on a child abuse or neglect case public on the Internet if the disclosure of the information poses a serious threat to the safety of the employee or their family and the individual disclosing it reasonably should know it would cause a serious threat. These employees can also request that other state or government officials remove personal information from the Internet if they feel their safety is threatened.

Additional Information:

This basically adds these employees to an already existing law that deals with law enforcement officials and their families. The bill also requires records custodians to deny requests under the open records act for this information in these circumstances.


Arguments For:

It makes sense to extend these protections to social workers working on abuse or neglect cases. First, we’ve got a case where there is the potential that someone being investigated is capable of violence. Second, cases where a child may be taken away are highly emotionally charged and more likely to lead to retribution against the social worker.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1197

HB19-1204 Prohibit Camping Environmentally Sensitive Areas [Beckman, Sandridge]

KILLED IN HOUSE COMMITTEE

Goal: To prevent people from sleeping or dwelling near natural resources in cities.

Description:

Bans sleeping or occupying a shelter or using heating or cooking devices or keeping or storing personal property within 100 feet of an environmentally sensitive area inside a city unless the local government has approved the area for camping. These areas are defined as public sites vital to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity, soil, water, or other natural resources that would be threatened by temporary or permanent human occupation. The city must periodically conduct environmental impact studies of these areas to evaluate the public health risks associated with unauthorized camping in the area.

Additional Information: n/a

Arguments For:

Many of these areas lack the infrastructure, including bathrooms, to deal with humans living there. This increases the risk of disease in the water from human waste and trash and threatens public safety. We need to make sure our governments have a handle on the situation and any mitigation efforts required, as well as make sure these areas remain clear of human habitation. There is no punishment attached to the ban, so this does not criminalize homelessness, it just makes sure our natural resources are protected.

Arguments Against:

This bill identifies a problem, the homeless camping near natural resources and potentially damaging them, but does nothing to solve it. The homeless are people who cannot be wished out of existence, they have to sleep somewhere. If we don’t want them near creeks and we don’t want them on streets and we don’t want them in parks, we should find a place we do want them. Until we can find a way to house the homeless we cannot make it impossible for them exist.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1204

HB19-1215 Child Support Commission Recommendations (Crowder) [Singer]

AMENDED: Minor

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Goal: To implement the recommended changes from the Colorado child support commission.

Description:

Makes numerous changes to child support laws, including:

  • Defines mandatory school fees as not including uniforms, meals, or extracurricular activities
  • Adds federal factors when determining potential income of a parent who is voluntarily under or unemployed.
  • Changes the amount of time after birth before income is computed from 30 months to 24 months.
  • Changes incarceration threshold (whereby income potential is not calculated) from one year to 180 days.
  • Adds vocational programs to the higher education exemption from income calculation.
  • Increases self-support reserve for calculating child support from $1,100 to $1,500.
  • Creates a $10 minimum order for parents with income under $650 a month.
  • Adjusts guidelines for parents with combined adjusted gross income up to $3,450. At each level of support this involves lowering the basic starting amount.
  • Creates a reduction in the order based on the number of overnight visits for parents under 183 nights a year, starting at 50% at 182 and going down to 0% at 0.
  • Requires the non-custodial parent to notify the custodial parent if the child is eligible for any of the non-custodial parent’s dependent benefits.
  • Clarifies that the commission is to take a look at these rates every four years.
  • Requires verified copy of support judgment to be provided to all parties.
  • Removes minimum wage based on a 40 hour work week as the basis for child support and substitutes the specific situations of each family.
  • Authorizes state enforcement agency to levy any financial institution holding a past-due payer’s account if the parent due to receive the funds is receiving support enforcement services from the state.

Additional Information: n/a

Arguments For:

This is a mouthful but the general gist is this: our current child support setup is too punitive to lower-income parents who owe support and do not take into account each family’s unique situation. Our current law also doesn’t properly account for how much time the parent who owes support is actively raising the child by having them at the parent’s house overnight. We have a commission to study this issue for a reason, we need to listen to their recommendations.

Arguments Against:

This is going to reduce child support for some families where things are working fine. Perhaps we need to take individual circumstances more into account, but we should not do across the board cuts like this so as to make the system work for the families, or in particular the non-custodial parent.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1215

HB19-1219 Child Welfare Permanency Planning [Gonzales-Gutierrez] TECHNICAL BILL

Goal: To modernize the child welfare permanency hearing laws by cleaning them up and updating for federal law changes.

Description:

Repeals and reenacts the provisions related to child welfare permanency hearings to reorganize the statutes and use consistent terminology related to permanency hearings. Also clarifies burden of proof and includes recent federal law changes.

HB19-1223 Social Security Disability Application Assistance (Winter) [Michaelson Jenet, Larson]

PASSED A HOUSE COMMITTEE

Goal: To help Coloradans who qualify for federal social security disability payments navigate the application process and get their benefits.

Description:

Creates a program on the county level to help individuals with disabilities navigate the application process for federal disability benefits. Counties can opt-out of the program. State is to create rules for an allocation formula of funds based on county needs and desire to have state-wide coverage. There is no dedicated funding stream. Counties are allowed to collaborate with non-profits. Program is to be evaluated for efficacy every five years.

Additional Information:

Assistance provided can include: referrals to appropriate medical providers whose assessments are required for approval; reminder outreach to applicants; assistance with compiling and drafting supporting documents for the application; assistance with completing and submitting an application; and assistance with appealing denials.


Arguments For:

State disability aid is not enough to live on ($217 per month), so those who cannot work due to disability need federal aid to avoid homelessness. Unfortunately the federal program application is very difficult, so much so that applicants who ultimately are determined to be eligible are frequently denied multiple times. So we are left in a situation where 57% of the state’s homeless population is estimated to be people with disabilities. Obviously having a disability and being homeless puts individuals at enormous health risks and increases high-cost emergency treatment that all of us ending up paying for. Even with access to emergency care, nationwide in 2016 over 10,000 people died while waiting to be approved for federal disability benefits.

Arguments Against:

Not all problems are solvable at the state level. This seems like a federal bureaucracy problem, not a Colorado problem, and we may not solve it by throwing more money at it at the state level. An additional issue here is someone’s ability to handle their finances (however meagre) and their lives. We cannot force someone to go the doctor, we cannot force someone to live within their means. Just getting a high-risk individual federal benefits may not be the panacea for homelessness and high-cost medical care that the bill hopes.

This is an unfunded mandate. Without a dedicated funding stream, this program will suspect the vagaries of the state budget every year. If this is going to be such a money saver for the state, put some money into it.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB19-1223

HB19-1232 Aligning Indian Child Welfare Act Requirements (Coram, Rodriguez) [Gonzales-Gutierrez, Catlin] TECHNICAL BILL

Goal: To align state law with federal law for Native American child welfare.

Description:

Updates Colorado law to align with federal changes contained in the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs updated guidelines for compliance with the federal “Indian Child Welfare Act” law.

SB19-031 Child Welfare Allocations Committee Composition (Gardner) [Lontine, Liston]

AMENDED: Moderate

PASSED SENATE AMENDED

Magnitude: Minor

Short Description: Changes composition of child welfare allocations committee by taking two seats away from the department of human services and adds two from the counties with the highest percentage of the state’s child welfare caseload. Also adds two non-voting member experts appointed by state department.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For: 

It makes sense to ensure that the two counties in the state with the highest caseload are represented on the committee. The Department of Human Services still has seats, just fewer of them.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-031

SB19-072 Bill of Rights Protected Person Under Guardianship (Holbert) [Ransom, Melton]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

Short Description:

Creates a series of rights for people who are protected through a legal guardianship relationship.

Long Description:

Creates a series of rights for people who are protected through a legal guardianship relationship. These include: to have an attorney at any time to ask for relief; receive notice for all guardianship proceedings (unless court determines the individual lacks capacity to understand notice); receive a copy of all documents; have a family member, interested party, or medical provider speak on their behalf; be educated and ask questions about their guardian’s actions; participate in developing plan for care; given due consideration to their personal desires, preferences for healthcare, and religious and moral beliefs; remain as independent as possible; granted the greatest amount of freedom possible; engage in any activity the court has not expressly forbidden; be treated with respect and dignity; be treated fairly; maintain privacy in personal matters; receive calls, mail, and visitors unless court determines particular correspondence or visitor will harm individual; have all guardian services provided at appropriate compensation levels; get prudent financial management; receive and control salary, maintain a bank account, and manage personal money. Also have the right to ask the court to review guardian management in disputes, review the need for a guardian at all, and replace a guardian.


Arguments For:

This is sadly necessary. There are entire organizations devoted to stopping guardian abuse and the examples are rampant. From stealing money to isolating people from family to pilfering assets, guardians are given immense power of an individual’s life and we do not have enough protections in place to prevent abuses. This bill rights this wrong in a comprehensive manner to ensure that all individuals who need a guardian are also enable to live their lives to the fullest extent possible.

Arguments Against:

This bill hamstrings guardians to an extent that may make executing their duties too difficult. Courts are required too often to make decisions that the guardian is there to do (it’s why the court appoints a guardian in the first place). Finances are too easily placed in the hands of an individual who may not be capable of managing them, and too much deference is given to an individual who is in this sad position for a reason: they cannot manage themselves without significant help. It is of course not their fault, but we should not make the situation worse by giving them too much to handle.

This bill has fatal conflicts with Colorado law (it is based on a Nevada law). Guaranteed rights under this bill would conflict with guardian's duty to act in best interest is just one example.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-072

SB19-132 Senior Property Tax Exemption Medical Necessity (Gardner) [Carver]

Short Description:

Allows seniors to receive the 10-year owner-occupier of a primary residence standard (required to be eligible for the 50% property tax exemption) if they would have qualified for the 10 years but for a medically forced move from a previous residence.

Long Description: n/a

Arguments For:

Needing to leave a home because of a medical necessity is a sad reality for some seniors. We should not penalize them for this, if they would have qualified for the 50% property tax exemption otherwise then they deserve the exemption.

Arguments Against:

If the point of this program is to keep seniors in their homes when property taxes rise above what they were when the senior bought the place, then a more recently purchased residence doesn’t apply. The point isn’t to give seniors money just because, it is that if you live in your home for a long time, the value of the property will rise, and so will the taxes, potentially to the point where you can’t afford the taxes anymore. Not being able to afford it is something that should not happen when you purchase the residence, or even a few years afterwards. The current setup makes sense and there is no need to include those who had to move, for whatever reason.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-132

SB19-149 Sunset Human Trafficking Council (Garcia, Marble) [Froelich]

Goal: To continue the human trafficking council.

Description:

Extends the human trafficking council through 2024.

Additional Information: n/a

Arguments For:

From the department of regulatory agencies sunset review report: “the collaborative work of the Human Trafficking Council has provided a valuable tool by engaging in related research, trainings, victims’ access to services, and campaigns to increase public awareness in order to expand the effectiveness of human trafficking reduction efforts in Colorado. For these reasons, the General Assembly should continue the Human Trafficking Council.” Also, you can turn on the news and see that this remains an enormous problem in America.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-149

SB19-172 Protect from Unlawful Abandonment and Confinement (Danielson, Ginal) [Singer]

Goal: To define the crime of unlawfully abandoning or confining an at-risk individual as a class 6 felony.

Description:

Defines unlawful abandonment and unlawful confinement of an at-risk adult, then adds these crimes to the list of crimes against at-risk people. Increases the severity of this crime from a level 1 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony.

Additional Information: n/a

Arguments For:

The abuse and neglect of senior citizens, people with disabilities, and other at-risk adults is a problem that impacts communities across Colorado. Abandonment and unlawful confinement have risen as two forms of abuse and neglect that prove difficult to prosecute, as they are currently undefined in Colorado statute. This bill defines these crimes and therefore provides law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute individuals who commit these crimes, further protecting at-risk adults from abuse and neglect. The reason to turn this into a felony is that the dividing line between misdemeanors and felonies typically starts at (among other things of course), physical or emotional harm to another person. This crime is currently misclassified, as it most certainly meets that criteria.

Arguments Against:

This runs contrary to our fairly widely accepted notion that we over-punish and over-criminalize in our society. If we truly believe that our justice system is too punitive then we cannot go around and add punishment levels to crimes. All crime is bad, that is why it’s a crime. A level 1 misdemeanor is no joke: 6 to 18 months in jail and fines ranging from $500 to $5,000. If we want more rehabilitation and less prison, then we need to keep this a level 1 misdemeanor.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-172

SB19-178 Program to Subsidize Adoption for Children and Youth (Foote) [Singer]

Goal: To rewrite the adoption assistance program to make it clearer, comply with current federal law, and make sure families and children in the state have the same access to the program no matter where they live.

Description:

Much of the new parts of this bill have to do with definitions. What information provided to adopted families, what benefits are available, and the circumstances under which benefits can be suspended. The underlying premise of the program (giving subsidies for adopting children with special needs) has not changed and is not addressed by this description. One of the main changes is to create a more rigorous framework and process around the negotiations between the county and the adoptive parents (there is no set subsidy amount, the final subsidy is determined on a case-by-case basis).

Additional Information:

When a family has been matched for adoption with a child who is potentially eligible for this program, the family must be given the following information:

  • Availability of benefits, with explanation of difference between them and foster care maintenance payments
  • Availability of reimbursement for nonrecurring expenses incurred in the adoption process
  • Availability of mental health services through Medicaid
  • Information on the federal adoption tax credit
  • Notice that the family can bring parties who possess relevant information about the child as well as legal counsel to the benefits negotiation
  • Notice of right of appeal of decision
  • Right to request a negotiation meeting

Benefits available include:

  • Monthly subsidies
  • Medical assistance
  • Reimbursement for nonrecurring expenses incurred in the adoption process
  • Any fees assessed by state during adoption process
  • Any reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court fees, attorney fees, or other expenses tied to the adoption process

Elements to consider in benefit negotiation:

  • Means test are forbidden for selecting adoptive family
  • Circumstances of the adoptive family
  • Current and anticipated needs of the eligible child or youth
  • Subsidy cannot exceed the foster care maintenance payment that would have been paid if the child or youth was still in foster care
  • Payments may be adjusted if needs change
  • If subsidies are not provided, the child or youth’s special needs must be documented as well as the potential need for financial subsidies that may need to be activated in future
  • Agreements must be reviewed at least every three years
  • Program benefits must be continued if the parents leave state with adopted child

Suspension Procedure:

  • Suspension can occur if county cannot contact adoptive family and cannot establish the family is supporting the child
  • 10 days notice must be provided and notice must contain written reason for suspension and steps family can take to reverse


Arguments For:

There had been some confusion about this law, as it was being interpreted differently in different parts of the state and there have been some federal law changes since the law was last addressed. This bill is a result of several years of work among the various groups this bill affects. This is an important program designed to help children in foster care who have been subjected to trauma. Before the original version of this law many of these children simply were not adopted.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB19-178